Developer: Comcept, Inti Creates
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, 3DS (Reviewed on Wii U)
Release Date: June 21st (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U), TBA (Mac, Linux, Vita, Xbox 360, 3DS)
Disclosure: The reviewer was a supporter of Mighty No. 9’s Kickstarter campaign and invested $60 into the project. With the intent of minimal bias, this review is in no way influenced by nor obligated to be written in the best interest of the developer and/or publisher.
After three long years, the Mega Man spiritual successor is finally here. While the ride has been admittedly bumpy, it’s nice to finally get the game in our hands. So, how does it hold up? Does Mighty No. 9 live up to its pedigree? Sadly, while it does have its moments, Mighty No. 9 is an overall mess.
The story of Mighty No. 9 is set in the “current year”, where a new era of peace between robots and humans is going strong and the only violence is expressed in the Battle Colosseum. However, something goes mysteriously ary and robots are running amok. Now, It’s up to the unaffected Mighty No. 9 Beck to repair the other Mighty Numbers and get to the root of the problem.
While the story for a game like this doesn’t have to be deep, its reliance on cliched characters is a bit much. Sure, I’ll believe the totally-not-evil head of Cherry Dynamics isn’t responsible for the rampage.
The presentation of Mighty No. 9’s story falls more in line with Mega Man 7 than Mega Man X, where pauses for story over gameplay happens surprisingly often. There are other moments that dialogue occurs over gameplay and doesn’t waste your time, but the inconsistency is annoying.
As far as the rest of Mighty No. 9’s presentation goes, it’s mediocre at best. Voice acting is pretty iffy, with poor direction and voice clips tied to dialogue boxes that makes for awkward pauses. Call’s monotone voice, Beck’s uninspired grunts, and Brandish’s edgelord quips are the worst.
On the positive end, Dr. White, Dr. Sanda, and Battalion do feel on point. As a bonus, If you don’t like the English voices, there are Japanese and French voice options that appear to have better delivery (coming from someone not fluent in either). Music is also good, but it doesn’t really stand out with the default mixing. Fortunately, you can adjust the sound effect and voice volumes to make up for this.
The visuals of Mighty No. 9 are simple, but some effects are goofy. Most notably, explosions look smeared and background elements like the smokestacks in Pyrogen’s stage look particularly bad when they fall over. Normally I don’t harp on animations as many aren’t too bad, but Beck’s run cycle feels very distracting. I do have more to say about the visuals, but that ties more into performance and I’d like to get the gameplay out of the way first.
The gameplay of the Mega Man spiritual successor Mighty No. 9 is what you would probably expect; a 2D sidescrolling action game with bosses, boss weapons, and the boss rush followed by final boss finale. While mostly everything about the game feels like a cheap copy of Mega Man, there are some nice gameplay tweaks to help differentiate it.
The main mechanic of Xel absorption is actually pretty cool. Damage enemies to weaken then, then dash into them to absorb their Xels for buffs and points. Depending on the color, you can get boosts in damage, speed, and defense. These buffs can also affect how your boss weapons work, with effects like less energy consumption and more danage.
As you absorb enemies, you charge up use of a one-time recovery item for sticky situations. The sooner enemies are absorbed after being weakened, the higher point rating and combo streaks you can get.
The most interesting use of this is in boss fights. Instead of having a life bar that you gradually wilt down, you have set intervals where they become weakened. You then have to dash to absorb that life before it recovers, which is also used to recharge your weapon energy. This makes for an interesting dynamic where you’re forced to get in close to deal damage while risking enemy attacks instead of just sticking to a safe corner.
While we’re on the subject of bosses, the typical boss weapon weakness cycle is here, and it has a nice narrative touch. For example, Battalion’s weapon is strong against Seismic, so if you beat Battalion first, you’ll have an easier time on Seismic’s stage. In addition, you also get a bit more character interaction that the main story doesn’t really present very well. That said, you’ll have a much better time if you tackle the easiest bosses first. I would recommend either Battalion, Brandish, or Countershade.
I think that the biggest bane of Mighty No. 9 is probably its inconsistency, both mechanically and in performance. While the controls are somewhat intuitive, the variables in things like your dash and movement speed as a result of buffs throws off the formula’s dependence on mastering the system.
Mechanically, checkpoint inconsistency rears its ugly head in Countershade’s stage. Here, there were multiple points that I expected checkpoints to occur, but besides the pre-boss room there were no checkpoints to be found.
In other stages, sometimes there will be a disc on the ground to denote a checkpoint, sometimes there won’t. Overall, it seems like a big oversight. There are also inconsistencies with your movement with variable dashes and buffs that can make for frustrating gameplay when Beck doesn’t control like you expect. That said, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Mighty No. 9 is probably the worst performing Wii U game I have ever played (yes, that includes Sonic Boom). From the start, it appears that the game will run at 60fps like the other versions. The menus feel responsive and the intro animation before each stage also looks to run smooth, but once you gain control it’s obvious. The game maybe runs around 40fps, which would be fine if it were that stable at all times.
When switching forms, it will bumps back up to 60fps unexpectedly, but more taxing areas will dip even lower than that. The worst performing areas are probably the highly reflective ice rooms of Cryosphere’s stage and outrunning drills in Seismic’s stage. Both of these easily drop down to the single digits.
The lower framerate may be tolerable if it weren’t for the terrible hitching. Many stages have critical moments that can mess you up because of sudden random hitching, and in stages like Pyrogen’s and Brandish’s it leaves you ill-equipped for the boss.
To add insult to injury, load times are also awful. Starting up the game takes about 30 seconds, and opening up the general options menu (yes, an options menu) can take about 10-15 seconds. These may be fine if you don’t access them often, but when you die due to Mighty No. 9’s inconsistency with gameplay and performance, your rewards is a 15 second loading screen, followed by 5-10 seconds of blackness and looping sound effects before the game decides to work again.
The most infuriating thing about these performance issues is that Mighty No. 9 is not a graphically demanding game, and it doesn’t look that great to boot. It very clearly is unoptimized, and while the hitching and super low framerate seems to be exclusive to the Wii U version, the others have their fair share of problems.
The PC version runs the most stable, that is if you have a powerful enough rig to handle it. The PlayStation 4 version has a generally good framerate, but it’s locked to 40fps in taxing areas and VSync does nothing to fix this. The Xbox One version has a better framerate in exchange for screen tearing and disabled bloom that can’t be enabled in the options alongside VSync. The Xbox 360 version had a last-minute compliance issue, so that’s been delayed. Everything about Mighty No. 9’s launch is messy and may only improve slightly when patches roll out.
Mighty No. 9 is an unfortunate victim of over-planning. From the massive amount of ports to the future goals of the franchise, this game’s development seemed to focus on everything besides the game. It does have its moments with genuinely fun gameplay mechanics and the appeal of the boss cycle. However, everything positive about this game is heavily undermined by its unoriginal nature and terrible performance issues. Those issues aside, it’s still a mediocre game. It may be better than nothing, but its mediocrity makes it worse than if it had just crashed and burned.